RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust is once again disappointed to note that despite being a significant net contributor to the economy, the heritage sector has been treated with contempt by the Chancellor in his latest spending review. It is clear that when formulating spending plans, the Government has failed to recognise the earning-power of the heritage economy and as a result is continuing to behave as if the historic environment and the industry that sustains and promotes it is a drain on resources rather than an asset to growth. The result of this myopic position is that heritage assets, including our national, regional and local museums together with their collections and highly skilled staff, are being placed in very real jeopardy.
It must also be recognised that although the cut to the museums budget administered through the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, has been set at ‘only’ 5% this comes on top of a programme of deep cuts that have seen sackings, a reduction in services and the closure of museums across the country. Furthermore, many heritage-related services including local and regional museums and Historic Environment Records are funded through local authorities, whose budget cut has been considerably more draconian at 10%. The net effect of these cuts will be a further whittling away of already inadequate budgets, the loss of staff, services and buildings and, eventually, of unique and irreplaceable collections. The impact of this ‘death by a thousand cuts’ approach will be to reduce the attractiveness of the UK as a visitor destination with a knock-on effect on businesses and communities in areas where tourism is a vital source of income and economic activity. RESCUE deplores any cuts to this important sector of the economy and will continue to advocate investment in the historic environment in all its aspects in order that the country will continue to enjoy the many economic and social benefits of a vibrant heritage sector.
RESCUE is concerned at the proposal which will see English Heritage split into two parts and in particular the proposal that will see historic properties handed over to a charitable trust which will, in time, be solely supported by voluntary donations and earned income. RESCUE believes that the state has an important role to play in the preservation and enhancement of our national heritage and that the removal of state funding is further evidence of the Government’s hostility towards a sector that it should be supporting and which requires investment rather than a reduction in support. RESCUE is also concerned that the rump of English Heritage which will remain within the funding remit of the DCMS (and will encompass many of the organisation’s most important roles in the areas of research, investigation and the support of curatorial services) will lack long-term viability and will become a target for future cuts, further eroding the base of expertise and knowledge that is an essential part of any national heritage service.
27th June 2013